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Twelve local community and business leaders were in it to win it as they competed to for a special honor -- even if that meant kissing a pig.

After eight weeks of fundraising, the competitors were honored for their efforts benefiting the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the American Diabetes Association at the 13th annual superhero-themed Kiss a Pig gala at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.

Fast Facts

Kiss A Pig gala

Who: The American Diabetes Association, Northwest Arkansas Chapter

When: March 14

Where: John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers

Funds Raised: $850,000

Information: (479) 464-4121, diabetes.org

The fundraising event benefits diabetes research, advocacy and educational programs for children and adults with diabetes in Northwest Arkansas. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 million children and adults in the United States are affected by diabetes, including 35,000 in Northwest Arkansas, and the number continues to grow.

The Kiss a Pig gala highlights a specific point in the history of diabetes and diabetes research. In the early 1920s, scientists successfully treated a diabetic teen with insulin derived from pigs, saving the young man's life and creating a new treatment for the disease.

Kissing a pig is a great honor for the winner, said Malorie Marrs, manager of special events and fundraising at American Diabetes Association in Bentonville.

This year, winners from three categories had the honor. Large business category winner David Badeen of Sam's Club won his category with an astounding $78,241 raised. Just out-earning Badeen was small-business winner Dana Proctor of Coldwell Banker, Harris McHaney & Faucette with $79,332.

Also kissing the pig was the gregarious Kendall Key of Hull Dermatology, who took home the High Hoof Award for her awareness efforts.

But these winners weren't the only ones kissing the piglet that night.

Honorary chairman Labeed Diab, senior vice president and president of health and wellness for Walmart, offered up his lips if the crowd could raise more that $20,000 towards advocacy programs. More than $25,000 was donated, and Diab kissed the pig to a roar from the audience.

"Once again, our candidates outdid themselves and raised more money to fight diabetes than any other city's gala in this great country!" said Steve Wolf, vice president of Abbott Nutrition, the presenting sponsor for the event.

Also making noise that night was none other than American rock band The Wallflowers, which entertained the 1,7000- person crowd for more than an hour and included hits "One Headlight" and "Three Marlenas" in the set. Not a dry eye could be found at the end of "6th Avenue Heartache," but spirits were lifted with a jubilant rendition of "The Difference."

Emcees for the event were KNWA anchor Laine Baker and 104.9 KXNA FM personality Jon Williams.

The evening included a silent auction, and a live auction which included items such as two African safari vacations, a Nascar experience and a puppy. The live auction raised more that $66,000.

Major sponsors included Johnson and Johnson, The Emerson Groups, Walmart/Sam's Club, MARS Advertising, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Blue Bunny and Nipro Diagnostics.

At the end of the evening, the silent auction, candidates' efforts, ticket sales and live auction raised more than $850,000 for the American Diabetes Association.

The other candidates were Carolyn Belz of Markwins Beauty, Michelle Berger of BuffMother.com, Sonny Brainerd of Edward Jones, Mike Graen of Crossmark, Cheryl Hatfield of The Mars Agency, Cody Long of SCM Designs, Dwayne Milum of Walmart Stores, Inc., Jennifer Gattin-Smith of Arbor Pharmaceuticals and Joi Swanson of Crossland Construction.

"We look forward to being a part of Kiss a Pig every year," says Wolf. "It's a great and wonderful cause."

Allison Carter can be reached by email at [email protected]

NAN Profiles on 03/29/2015

Print Headline: The big (pig) kiss

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